WASHINGTON--Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) on Friday threatened to place a "hold' on the Defense Appropriation bill if it includes a provision to allow the transfer of detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba military prison to the United States. Under Senate rules, any Senator can stall a piece of legislation--and the freshman Kirk is flexing his new senate muscle for the first time.
The issue flared up earlier this year when the Obama administration moved to buy an underused state prison in Thomson, Ill. in part to use to house Guantanamo detainees. As a House member from Illinois--until he was sworn into the Senate on Nov. 29--Kirk opposed any transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S.
Closing Guantanmo was a central Obama pledge that the president has not been able to keep--a promise made during his campaign on his first day in office. Congress needs to give permission for any transfer of a Guantanamo prisoner to the U.S.
Statement from Kirk:
"Instead of providing Congress with a clean Defense Authorization bill that could win overwhelming bipartisan support, Speaker Pelosi buried a provision in the House defense bill that permits bringing Guantanamo terrorists to the United States. Such a provision would weaken the security of our country. Therefore, should the Defense Authorization bill come to the Senate with the Gitmo terrorist transfer provision included, I will place a hold on the bill and would seek to strike the provision, restoring the current law that bans bringing Gitmo terrorists to the homeland.
"We should not put ourselves in a position where a rogue court can order the release of a member of the al Qaeda core. Just this week, a terrorist attack directed by a former Guantanamo detainee and now senior Taliban commander, Mullah Zakir, killed six U.S. soldiers in Kandahar.
"While we could authorize a federal prison in Thomson, Illinois to support economic growth, it should never weaken our nation's security by housing Gitmo terrorists. I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to continue our bipartisan prohibition on transferring Gitmo terrorists to the heartland."